What is Packaging?
According to the International Packaging Institute (IPI) “ packaging is the enclosure of products, items or packages in a wrapped pouch, bag, box, cup, tray, can, tube, bottle or another container form to perform one or more of the following functions as given below.
In other words, packaging can also be expressed as “ A coordinated system of preparing goods and ensuring safe delivery to the customers ”.
Types Of Advanced Packaging:
Food packaging technology is continuously evolving in response to the growing challenges in modern society. Active and intelligent packaging systems are the two most innovative branches of the packaging field, which allow the development of food products with extended shelf life, enhanced food quality, and safety. Apart from this edible packaging, sustainable packaging also falls in the category of Advanced Packaging.
- Intelligent Packaging:
Intelligent packaging materials is the term used to represent a class of packaging materials that can monitor the condition of either the packaged food or the food environment inside the package which includes temperature, pH, etc.
It is a kind of packaging system that can carry out intelligent functions like detecting, sensing, tracing, etc., and making the customer aware of the condition of the product through color changes in the tags/indicators. The intelligent systems can be classified into three broad categories; sensors, indicators, and radiofrequency identification (RFID) systems. These categories are summarised in the table below :
Figure (A): Example of a Freshness Indicator
Figure (B): Example of a Gas Sensor
Figure (C): Example of RFID System.
- Active Packaging System:
It is a kind of packaging system in which a constituent is either added in the headspace or included within the packaging material, maintaining food safety, sensory, and all the other quality attributes. Active packaging is generally done in two ways, as represented in the flow diagram.
Since sachets cannot be used in liquid products moreover, they will have less effect in vacuum packaging; hence one of the alternatives was introducing the active component in the primary plastic packaging. Making a packaging film active is more complicated than introducing a sachet e.g. when making an oxygen-absorbing film one has to take care of the thickness of the material, should look that oxygen should not be absorbed before the food is in it. After so much consideration also, the results are lower than that of a sachet.
Active packaging can be used for the following purposes:
- Eliminate an unwanted component– Like oxygen present inside the package or ethylene produced by the respiring fruits.
- Prevent microbial growth by incorporating an antimicrobial component in the packaging film.
- Introduce a desirable component like carbon-di-oxide in some instances to retard microbial growth.
- Change the physical conditions of the package like absorbing water vapor etc.
Following table shows different active packaging with examples:
- Edible Coating:
Edible films and coatings are a thin layer of material that can be consumed and provides a barrier to moisture, oxygen, and solute movement for the food. Edible films and coatings must be chosen for food packaging purposes according to specific applications, the types of food products, and the significant mechanisms of quality deterioration. Components used to prepare edible films can be classified into three categories: hydrocolloids (such as proteins, polysaccharides, and alginate), lipids (such as fatty acids, acylglycerol, waxes).
- Sustainable Packaging:
Sustainable and green protocols recommend using biodegradable and environmentally friendly food packaging materials, as other packaging materials generate waste. There is a renewed focus on creating sustainable packaging and some of the examples of those materials are polylactide acid (PLA) plastics, sugar cane pulp, fiber composite, starch-based films, and so on Sustainable packaging is a complex idea that must be applied with a systematic approach and critical thinking.
Three critical issues to be considered in the evaluation of packaging sustainability are
(1) the entire lifecycle of the package from raw materials through to ultimate disposal, to avoid problems being transferred from one part of the lifecycle to another.
(2) interactions between the package and the product, it contains so that the environmental impacts of the product-packaging system as a whole are minimized.
(3) there is also a need to consider impacts on the business, people, and the natural environment.
The recent years have witnessed development in various intelligent packaging systems. When integrated with the food packages, these technologies can prove to be useful not only for the extension of food shelf life while improving quality, but also can provide useful information regarding the product. More intensive research is still required in the area of intelligent packaging material to develop more economical systems while offering convenience to the consumer.